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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriages (SSM) & civil unions in Hawaii

Giving businesses a license to discriminate.
Public testimony nears its conclusion.
Concern about bill SB1 & the educational system.
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This topic is a continuation from the previous essay

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2013-NOV-01: Proposed amendment to preserve companies' freedom to discriminate:

Elsewhere in the U.S., among those states that have legalized SSM, there have been perhaps a dozen instances in which religious owners of a marriage-related business have found themselves in a three-way religious and legal conflict:

  • On one hand, their conservative religious beliefs cause them to believe that same-gender sexual behavior is an "abomination" rejected by God, and that same-sex couples should not be allowed to marry. Although they are in business as a "public accommodation" to provide a service or product to everyone, the owner(s) believe that, because of their religious beliefs, they must reject same-sex marrying couples as potential customers. The cases that have been reported on the Internet mostly involve wedding photographers, wedding cake bakers, wedding organizers, and small companies that rent a wedding venue to marrying couples for their wedding ceremonies and/or receptions.

  • On the other hand, the Bible teaches an "ethic of reciprocity" which all believers are expected to follow. Within Christianity, this is generally called the "Golden Rule:" that one must treat other people as we would wish to be treated ourselves. This teaching is so important to the smooth functioning of society that it is found in over a dozen major religions and in many secular ethical systems. Just as the owner(s) would wish to be accommodated when they approach another company for a service or product, the Golden Rule calls on them to provide their service or product, without discrimination, to everyone.

  • Finally, Hawaii and most other states have "public accommodation" or human rights legislation that requires businesses who provide a service or sell products to the general public to not discriminate against customers on the basis of the latter's race, religion, gender, nationality, degree of disability, sexual orientation, etc. In Hawaii, the statute that applies is:

    "§489-3  Discriminatory practices prohibition: Unfair discriminatory practices that deny, or attempt to deny, a person the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of a place of public accommodation on the basis of race, sex, including gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, color, religion, ancestry, or disability are prohibited." 1

    Conflicts with human rights legislation involving members of the LGBT community are not necessarily linked to same-sex couples getting married. For example, they could occur when a same-sex couple approaches a professional photographer to photograph a baptism ritual or take photographs to document a house for sale by the owner. But the recent surge in the number of states legalizing same-sex marriage seems to have triggered quite a few recent conflicts associated with SSMs.

About a dozen cases among a third of a billion people in the U.S. makes this a rather rare phenomenon. However, each case has been given a very high profile among many conservative faith-based information sources where it is described as an attack on people's religious freedom and liberty. This id not referring to the traditional meaning of "religious freedom" which involves the freedom of belief, freedom of assembly, freedom to proselytize, etc. It is the newly evolving meaning of "religious freedom" defined as the freedom to use one's religious beliefs to to denigrate, manipulate, oppress, and discriminate against others.

Faced with this conflict, most owners choose to follow the Golden Rule and/or human rights laws and treat same-sex marrying couples as normal customers. However, some have chosen to reject LGBT customers, have been charged with discrimination under the state's human rights laws, been found guilty, and fined. Surprisingly, in some cases, the guilty verdict has proven beneficial to the business. Their sales have experienced a major increased as potential customers who also wish to discriminate against the LGBT community preferentially seek out these businesses -- not in spite of discrimination against members of the LGBT community but because of it.

In Hawaii, House Minority Leader Aaron Johanson (R) is joining with some other religiously and socially conservative legislators to propose an amendment to SB1. It would allow small businesses of five or fewer employees to freely discriminate against the LGBT community with impunity if they wish. The freedom to discriminate would give the businesses immunity from human rights legislation. In the version being proposed, the legislation would be automatically reviewed after three years. It would also contain a hardship clause: Rep. Marcus Oshiro (D), chair of the House Finance Committee explained:

"If you're the only bakery or photographer or wedding planner let's say in Paauilo or in Honokaa or someplace in the rural areas, then you must provide those services." 2,3

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2013-NOV-04: Testimony heard by the House Judiciary and Finance Committees nears an end:

Rumors circulated that some people were testifying on behalf of others, using fake names, and/or testifying more than once. A printed list of speakers disappeared on late NOV-02, and was apparently used by some individuals to testify in the place of registered people who were not present when called. Rep. Sylvia Luke (D), chairperson of the House Finance Committee said:

"People were being encouraged to trade numbers or testify on other people's behalf. The whole point of oral testimony is for legislators to ask the individual testifier questions. If you're testifying on behalf of somebody else, it's difficult to ask that person questions."

Carolyn Tanaka, the House's Director of Communications issued a statement, saying:

"We noticed that during the check-in process there were discrepancies in matching registration numbers with some of the individuals checking in to testify. In order to ensure transparency and fairness in the public hearing process we refined our procedures by tightening up our identification requirements."

Honolulu Civil Beat suggests that those who oppose SB1 are trying to delay the final decision as long as possible, perhaps in the hope that so much negative testimony will sway the vote of a few representatives who are not solidly in favor of the bill's passage.

Elwin Ahu, senior pastor at New Hope Metro mega-church suggested that church member:

"... stay at the capitol all day and ‘read testimony’ on behalf of others. That may be a start."

By 2:30 PM on Monday, testifier #5,087 was presenting their views. A total of 5,181 had signed up to testify. 4

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2013-NOV-05: Concern over possible impact of SB1 on the school curriculum:

One serious concern expressed by many people opposed to marriage equality is the effects that same-sex marriage would have on the educational system and on the information that children are taught. This concern was discussed by many of the over 5,000 people who have testified. For example:

  • Renee D. Godoy, the senior pastor of a conservative Christian church in Hilo, HI testified:

    "Legalizing same sex marriage will open the door for all children to be taught in our educational institutions things that are not compatible with our beliefs as Christians or other who do not embrace same-sex relationships for their children." 5

  • Janice Pechauer, former president of the Save Traditional Marriage group testified that:

    "As happened when Massachusetts adopted same-sex marriage, passage of SB 1 will lead to further radicalization of the sex-education curricula in Hawaii's public schools, in essence, force-feeding children with information that parents consider immoral, dishonest and extremely harmful." 6

"LP Grad" posted a comment to a Deseret News article about SB1. He wrote:

    "Once same-sex marriage is legal, schools have to address it and give it the same respect and acceptance as heterosexual marriage. All of a sudden children are taught that homosexuality is okay. Whether it is or is not is up to you, but for those millions of parents who try to instill in their children certain values, all of a sudden the schools are legally required to teach [material] contradictory to the values parents try to teach their children. Whose responsibility is it to raise a child, parents or the state?" 7

Tara O’Neill, an associate professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa College of Education said:

"There's nothing in this bill that mandates curriculum change."

Alex Da Silva, a spokesperson for the state Department of Education, said the department isn’t considering changing the curriculum in response to SB1.

Honolulu Civic Beat communicated with each of the 14 states that have legalized same-sex marriage to date to find out if the topic was included in their curriculum. Ten states responded. None of them require teaching about same-sex marriage.

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.

  1. "§489-3  Discriminatory practices prohibition," Civil Rights Commission, at:
  2. Zack Ford, "Hawaii Republicans Try To Block Marriage Equality From Advancing," Think Progress, 2013-NOV-01, at:
  3. Jim Mendoza, "House lawmakers propose broader exemption in same-sex bill," Hawaii News Now, 2013-OCT-31, at:
  4. Nathan Eagle, "Tightened ID Requirements as Final Few Hundred Testify on Hawaii Gay Marriage," Honolulu Civil Beat, 2013-NOV-04, at:
  5. Testimony in support or opposition to bill SB1, Government of Hawaii, Page 14. at:
  6. Anita Hofschneider, "Would Gay Marriage Bring the 'Homosexual Lifestyle' to Hawaii Students?," Honolulu Civil Beat, 2013-NOV-05, at:
  7. Oskar Garcia, "Hawaii gay marriage hearing stretches into 4th day," Comments section, Deseret News, 2013-NOV-05, at:
  8. David Badash, "Pat Robertson Created Group Behind Massive Anti-Gay Hate In Hawaii’s Marriage Hearings," The New Civil Rights Movement, 2013-NOV-05, at:
  9. David Badash, "Hawaii House Committees Vote Yes On Same-Sex Marriage Bill," The New Civil Rights Movement, 2013-NOV-05, at:
  10. "Reps. McDemott & Ward Q&A Tenari Ma'afala at the Capitol,: You Tube, 2013-NOV-05, at:

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Copyright ©2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2012-NOV-01
Latest update: 2013-NOV-07
Author: B.A. Robinson

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